Joan of Arc Becomes Latest Flashpoint in TERF Fight

We have been discussing the ongoing controversies — and prosecutions — over what are called Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs). The term is used for feminists who have voiced opposition to transgender policies and laws that they believe “erase” or “marginalize” biological women. The most famous such figure is author J.K. Rowling who has not only been the subject of a global cancel campaign but was recently listed by Buzzfeed with figures like cult leader Jim Jones, Benedict Arnold and O.J. Simpson as “villains.” Now, Joan of Arc is a flashpoint in the debate after Kit Heyam, lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, called for the use of “they/them” pronouns and declared that Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth should not be viewed as females but “gender nonconformists.”  That has led feminists and others to object that Heyam and others are actually advancing gender stereotypes of women.

In an essay, Heyam discusses the new play, “I, Joan,” which “tells Joan of Arc’s story anew” as “alive, queer, and full of hope,.”  Heyman notes how both historical figures performed tasks ordinarily reserved to men.

“The ninth-century English ruler Æthelflæd, who governed Mercia after the death of their husband, was later described as ‘conducting…Armies, as if she had changed her sex’: to take on a male-coded military role was, in some sense, for Æthelflæd to become male.

Elizabeth I, similarly, described themself regularly in speeches as ‘king’, ‘queen’ and ‘prince’, choosing strategically to emphasize their female identity or their male monarchical role at different points…”

I must confess that I take the emphasis on clothing and conduct to be a tad superficial as evidence of gender nonconformity as opposed to women who refused to be confined by social convention. For example, the fact that Elizabeth referred to herself as “prince” on occasion is consistent with the nomenclature of the time. Today it would be similar to a female fire fighter referring to herself as a “fireman” out of convention. Likewise, while she was known as the “Virgin Queen” and died without marrying or producing children, she had a variety of lovers and love interests. There were a myriad of reasons making marriage complex and risky for Elizabeth I.

Heyam’s position would seem to suggest that these figures should not be considered women because they dared to engage in activities reserved to men.

Feminist philosopher Jane Clare Jones objected that Heyam’s position suggests that

“anyone who does ‘manly’ things must be a man, and anyone who does ‘womanly’ things must be a woman…This is how we end up in a situation in which historical women who have performed traditionally ‘masculine’ roles end up being re-categorised as ‘trans men’ or ‘non-binary’ or ‘not-women’ in some way.”

I actually thought Heyam’s article was most interesting in explaining the importance of these figures to the trans community.  Heyam identifies as a “non-binary trans person” and wrote:

“When I hear Joan say, from 1431, ‘It was necessary’, I hear echoes of myself years ago, asking to be called they rather than she, telling people, ‘I don’t know why, but it’s what makes me happy.’ This doesn’t mean I can describe the real Joan as a trans person in the same way I am: it wouldn’t be fair to them, wouldn’t show them the respect they deserve, if I were to impose upon them my own way of seeing the world. But their story is nonetheless important to me, as it is to many other people of all genders, as a source of historical community; as a story which reminds us that our selves can be messy and our decisions multifaceted; and as a story of someone who insisted on disrupting and challenging gender, and remained so committed to this challenge that they were prepared to die for it. This history is powerfully liberating for all of us.”

That is a poignant and fascinating perspective. It could not justify, in my mind, treating these figures as nonconforming with they/them pronouns, but it show how these historical figures can resonate with people like Heyam in their own lives.

I only wish that feminists like Rowling and others can be afforded greater civility and tolerance in expressing their own views in this area. These are all valuable perspective and make for a rich and interesting debate. Unfortunately, while Heyam is legitimately welcomed in sharing her theories on these figures, it is increasingly difficult for writers like Rowling to appear on campuses to share their own countervailing views.

121 thoughts on “Joan of Arc Becomes Latest Flashpoint in TERF Fight”

  1. What the hay, lets rewrite the history of some of the Bravest Warriors with a binary twist, first from Mars (Kitty Carson, Daniela Boone, Alice York, Janice Bowie, Diana Crocket, and Tabatha Roosevelt). And from Venus: (King Boudica, King Teuta of Illyria, Scathach the Duine, Greg O’Malley the pirate, Thomas Gozen the Samurai, Art Nzinga, and Baiitso Lozen).



    If you let crazy people vote, you end up with a crazy country.

    Rather than including vote criteria in the Constitution, the Framers relied on the States to restrict the vote individually and appropriately.

    That was their first, their only and their last mistake.

    – Voters must enjoy a level of self-reliance, homogeneity, success and age (i.e. 21), as representatives of their individual families.

    – Inimical abducted laborers should and must have been compassionately repatriated, by law.

    – Populations must be generated and efficaciously advanced, sufficient to defend and grow the nation; that is an all-consuming task.

    “[We gave you] a [restricted-vote] republic, if you can keep it.”

    – Ben Franklin

    You couldn’t.

    Corrective action can only be imposed through compulsion.

    The second iteration of the Constitution and Bill of Rights can only be implemented through the very same means of the Founders.

    America was stolen through compulsion by Lincoln; America must be taken back from Lincoln through Lincoln’s own compulsion.

    Leaders must retain their resolve; leaders must lead.

  3. It appears to me that the Democrat party panders to psychologically impaired and emotionally impaired people for their vote instead of seeking treatment for their impairments and illnesses and trying to actually help them.
    That’s disgusting.

  4. The only redeeming feature in reading this academic tripe is the biblical reminder that this too shall pass away.
    Can’t happen a moment too soon.

  5. I owe myself lunch. I bet myself that after the story broke last evening that Trump claimed TS/SCI documents were his property and not that of the NARA that Turley wouldn’t comment further about Trump’s criminal liability. I was right; Turley pivoted to some culture wars topic. After all, how could he backtrack after admitting that Trump had no right to possess TS/SCI documents? Now, it turns out that his retention of these papers was intentional, and despite the advice of competent counsel, the story just got worse.

  6. Interesting food for thought, Turley. But, as usual, having your expressed views on free speech while also being a confirmed user of censorship gets in the way of my being able to take you seriously. This carries over into your views on civility as well.

  7. It really says something about your level of dysfunction and self delusion when you need to trawl the last 600+ years of history for famous figures to reinforce your own self deception.

  8. It has gotten beyond absurd. Really – it is just ridiculous. This is the kind of ignorance that is actually dangerous. Sorry, but Joan of Arc was indeed a woman, just a woman in the time she inhabited, and she lived within that context. Millennials that promote this sort of thing are digging the grave of their own irrelevance. We would have laughed at something like this years ago, and i’m here to laugh at it now. It will likely flop, and at some point continued existence due to bottom line concerns will win out. it is absolutely insane that we have so many trust fund babies half our ages presuming to tell us how to live. The older folks among us really need to find their spines, and good luck convincing the rest of us they didn’t epitomize cowardice later on. If these fools insist on projecting, then create some original characters. I know that’s a stretch for the generations with no imagination or the ability to think critically or a concept of being self-actualized. The rest of us are pretty done playing along with their infantile fantasy land.

    As an aside, I am an artist and made a face to go on a fine art Joan of Arc doll a number of years ago; I can assure you that the woman who created the doll had none of this on her mind, she was just celebrating a remarkable woman. Find. Your. Spines. Spinelessness over a period of decades is the number one cause of our current travails. And incidentally, the doll sold well.

  9. Kit Heyam is projecting Kit’s own psychological disturbance on to historical figures and that is always a chancy thing to do when you have no real concept of the pressures, politics, religion, interpretation of religion, sex and gender roles, social interactions and a multiplicity of other conditions which affected those historical figures at the times of their lives. We have records and text’s to some extent of those periods but we, as modern human beings, have really no experience or expectation of what life was like to those people. They dealt daily with problems and events in their lives that required skills and knowledge that we no longer use or understand. It would be doubtful we (modern humans) could even survive in those times because our own modern assumptions would likely make us look insane.
    People even now have no concept of going to college and fearing a failing grade or year might put you in the draft and on a fast plane to Viet Nam. Or if you were poor or black you were far more likely to end up drafted and in Viet Nam. With large numbers of military deaths reported each day
    Just as it was difficult to me understanding a whole world was at war just 9 years before I entered 1st grade or that i could walk through major cities all through Germany that still had vast ruins still being rebuilt. (Ukrainians understand that now).
    You simply cannot understand or project how life was and what it meant. Don’t denigrate those previous people with your modern superiority and arrogance. Learn from it and improve yourself.

    1. Absolutely. There is hardly a word in what Heyam said, or any of the other people involved, that would make any sense at all to Jeanne d’Arc or anyone else in the world of the early 15th Century. Jeanne believed she was called by God to see that the Dauphin was coronated King of France, which had to happen in Orleans and hence required lifting the English seige. Yes, women did not normally actively participate in battle, but this was a call from God, and the theology of the matter was of intense interest. Violating the current gender norms was legitimate to the extent one believed it was fulfilling a Divine command. The English insisted God had NOT called on her to do what she claimed, and the French insisted that God had. Violation of gender norms was a trivial consequence of the religious call.

      Heyam can draw whatever lessons she likes from the events, but she clearly does not know or does not care to understand the people she is using for her own purposes. When she imputes motives she is way off base. Jeanne was not there to challenge gender norms, let alone support “trans people,” she was there to do what God had told her to do, to save France. And even the French did not view her success as a capable woman challenging gender norms, but saw it as God’s will. If God wanted a teen girl to lead an army, well, her success was do to God.

      The 1420s were NOT the 2020s!

  10. This is the problem with the progressive leftists. It is either their way or you are a (insert whatever perceived evil here, and you speech is violence against whatever group here, or endangering them for not being seen, whatever that means).
    You want to have an interpretation of Joan of Arc? Have at it. Dont be surprised if there might be some critics out there who might use known historical evidence in their critique.
    Heck, I will write my own interpretation of Joan of Arc who was a proud, strong will woman with the sight, vision and exceeding charisma to lead French troops in several campaigns against the English. I will refer to her as she did in her letters as Jeanne la Pucelle or Joan the Maiden.

    Hold on, there is a knock on the door . . . is that Hollywood I hear knocking? Wait, what is with the black SUVs?

  11. So, what are we to make of Isabella d’Este, who had three sons and did all sorts of ‘male’ things when she had to do so? She never for a moment thought of herself as anything but a woman, a mother, and a wife. Yet I suspect there is a postmodern theorist somewhere who will attribute all manner of contemporary non-conforming characteristics to her, which will only display their ignorance of Renaissance Italy . . . .

    1. Yes, the same people who tell us that gender norms and roles are socially constructed and not real, are telling girls who go against those norms (what we used to smilingly call “tomboys”) to undergo hormone and surgical mutilation to become chimeras, physically half female and half male but socially treated as male, and telling gentle boys to do likewise and become quasi females.

      Yes, there is such a thing as gender dysphoria, which affects well under 1% of the population, and more biological boys than girls, and is usually manifest by about age 4. Those people deserve sympathy, support, and when they are old enough, honest discussion of their options.

      What is going on now is a travesty and I suspect that when this passes, as it eventually will, people will look at it as one of the several ways in which our current cultural leaders expressed their fear and even hatred of children, all while proclaiming the opposite. Locking kids out of school for a disease that posed almost no risk to them. Large numbers of people supporting abortion not as an unfortunate choice that should be available as a last resort, but bragging about it and treating is as a sacrament. Zero population growth and one-child or no-children advice. Not merely supporting a woman’s right to a career outside the home, if she wishes, but denigrating those who choose to focus on raising children as lacking intelligence or incapable of independent thought.

      It was once said that insincere appeal to patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel–which is not a put-down of patriotism but of those who use it to shut down conversation. That could be updated and now be about anyone who tries to settle an argument by saying, “It’s for the children.” Because that is almost never what it is really about for that person.

  12. Why do we even discuss these claims and assertions? They are made by nobodies who have no claim to fame for ANYTHING other than their bogus assertions about sexuality. Discussing their radical claims and condemnations of others gives them legitimacy.

  13. When going through medical school, the student spends time in a morgue. On the slab the student views dead bodies rolled out from refrigeration. Then the student gets to view skeletons.
    When viewing skeletons, the student is expected to notice rib structure, pelvic structure, and other defining characteristics which separate biological female and male skeletons. It does not matter what race the person was.
    To a pathologist, all this talk of transgender identification and racial superiority/inferiority is moot — your skeleton is what it is.

    We think of our society as advanced. I’m not so sure.

    1. Richard Lowe,
      Great post.

      I oft wonder if historians in the future will look back and ponder what led to the demise of the global superpower known as The United States of America?
      Your last line I think answers that question.

  14. A person’s feelings about historical figures may mean something to the person, but it honestly does not matter. I keep coming back to, these people (like white supremacists) need something that matters in their life other than their gender (or race). If all you have to be proud of in your life is your gender, race, sex, etc. you are a unremarkable human being.

    1. Imagine if Joan of Arc spent her/their/whatever days navel gazing about her/their/whatever sexuality – we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      While that would be nice, if we continue with this stupidity – humanity will be worse off.

  15. I would like to make a point about nothing having to do with this column.

    The MSM is decrying the Republicans for purging the party of all reps that voted to impeach Trump implying that the Democrats would not act in such a way. Now let’s look at how the Democrats treated anyone that voted against their party’s leader when he was under impeachment…oh wait, they all voted party line.

  16. At this point it would be best leave progressives to re-writing their history, we have existing books. Intelligent people should move on to things that matter, like advancing humanity.

      1. No one “ate” Liz Cheney, Republican VOTED her out because she was not representing their interests… in fact, she was representing the interests of the Democrats. Lizzie ceased to be a Republican when her personal politics led her to attacking the very people she was elected to represent.

        1. She was not elected to represent Donald Trump. That’s who she attacked, not the people of WY, and she attacked him for acting unpatriotically and betraying his oath of office. I dislike her politics, but I respect that she takes her oath of office seriously.

          1. It was personal with her – nothing more, nothing less. I have no real beef with any Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. I disagreed wit their conclusion, but that was their choice. Ms. Cheney went beyond and basically flipped off the partner that brought her to the dance. She and Adam K actually did the country a disservice by participating in that show trial shut out differing opinions

          2. She was elected to represent the people of WY, and those people overwhelmingly support Trump. By turning on him she betrayed them, and they took the opportunity to elect someone else who better represents them. That’s all.

  17. As a women who has accomplished much in the tradtionally “male” environment I find the writings of Mr.-Ms.-Ms.-whomever Heyam to be offensive and greatly distorting of the accomplishments of straight biological women. How dare she imply that I would needs be a transperson in order to explain my accomplishments. She is negating the entire concept of women’s actual abilities for the sake of validating her own confused life situation. That she should have a platform for her convoluted ideas is supportable, but that any institution should shelter her concepts by censoring other contrary opinions is the deep source of the mistrust and ruination of our education/media industry.

  18. In the HBO series “The Newsroom,” the anchor referred to the Tea Party as “The American Taliban.” Not sure how accurate that was at the time, but it describes perfectly the American progressives. “You must think as we do, or we will punish you.” Taliban.

    1. I have, since growing a deeper familiarity with radical islam after 9/11, seen a great similarity between radical jihadists and the ideologies and tactics of the prog/left.

    2. The Tea Party was a peaceful group that supported the Constitution. When at events, they were polite and left the place clean.

Leave a Reply